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A survivor of the Columbine shooting returned to teach at the school

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps. And today, we have wisdom from two survivors of Columbine. Mandy Cooke was a sophomore at Columbine High School in 1999. English teacher Paula Reed was also there on the day of the massacre, and they came to StoryCorps to talk about the years since, as well as Mandy's choice to become a teacher.

MANDY COOKE: My first year in college, Columbine was the very first page of my psychology textbook. That's when I had that feeling of, like, whoa, people in my class are going to read about this. And I lived it. You know, I never wanted to come back to Columbine to teach. I know there's people out there who never stepped foot back into that building. And it was hard, yeah. But I didn't know that it would affect me that much.

I remember that we had a threat of some kind where they put us on lockdown. And I could see police coming down the street. Nobody could get in or out of the neighborhood. And I was doing OK. But throughout the day, it just kept getting longer and longer. And then all these kids were like, Ms. Cooke, what's going on? And I said, you know, I don't know. But [expletive] this person, whoever did this to us. And as you know, you know, I don't curse at school. But I was pissed off. I walked into the social studies office, and I called my sister, and I said, I'm not OK. That's that moment I went right back to my 16-year-old self. I was so broken that day. I could never envision - what am I going to be doing 20 years later?

PAULA REED: Right.

COOKE: I couldn't see that far. And now, looking back, I weirdly feel proud that I walk into Columbine every day. I'm doing the job that I've always wanted to do, and I get to teach some of the best kids in the world.

INSKEEP: Mandy Cooke and Paula Reed for StoryCorps. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.